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Accessing America: Bond Dickinson makes unique US play with Womble Carlyle tie-up

While much has been made of US merger plays by Eversheds and Addleshaw Goddard, fellow mid-market firm Bond Dickinson has secured an exclusive strategic alliance with full-service US firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice.

The deal means that Womble Carlyle will refer all UK work to Bond Dickinson and vice versa.

Like Bond Dickinson, Womble Carlyle is a mid-market full-service law firm, with a large offering in Charlotte, North Carolina. In addition, the firm has a further 14 offices across the US including Atlanta, Columbia, Silicon Valley and Washington. While Bond Dickinson posted turnover of £107m last year, Womble Carlyle was just outside last year’s Global 100 with revenue at around $300m. The US firm has 550 lawyers and 300 partners.

Speaking to Legal Business, Bond Dickinson managing partner Jonathan Blair said there was a clear business case for the move: ‘The US is the largest single direct foreign investor and trading partner of the UK and vice versa. We have got a formal memorandum of understanding in place which has got milestones in there. In addition we have service level agreements in place around quality and standards of work and we will also be targeting specific clients where we don’t currently act for either.’

Blair (pictured right), said the alliance received unanimous partner support when it was put to a vote a couple of weeks ago and will also include a programme of visitations or secondments from both firms.

Womble Carlyle chair and chief executive Betty Temple (pictured left) said: ‘The alliance will increase the already established synergies between our two firms and serve as a catalyst to grow our global skillset and opportunities. Bond Dickinson boasts a client base and national presence that is unique in the UK and mirrors the capabilities and culture of Womble Carlyle in the US.’

According to Blair, the two firms have worked together for several years on a non-exclusive referral arrangement predominantly in the corporate space, however this new arrangement is also likely to boost both firm’s fintech and private wealth offerings.

In December 2014 Bond Dickinson entered into its first strategic alliance with German firm Redeker Sellner Dahs as part of a growing international strategy.

Addressing Bond Dickinson’s international strategy was a key priority for Blair after the merger of Newcastle based Dickinson Dees and Bristol-headquartered Bond Pearce went ahead in May 2013.